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NATO bombards Libya in heaviest strikes so far 'killing three and wounding dozens'

A government spokesman said NATO had targeted buildings used by volunteers in the Libyan army but the alliance said it targeted a storage facility supplying those who carry out attacks on civilians.

Skies over Tripoli are illuminated by the NATO airstrikes on Tuesday morning.
Skies over Tripoli are illuminated by the NATO airstrikes on Tuesday morning.
Image: Darko Bandic/AP/Press Association Images

NATO WARPLANES BOMBARDED targets in Tripoli with more than 20 airstrikes early this morning in what appeared to be the heaviest night of bombing of the Libyan capital since the Western alliance launched its air campaign against his forces.

The rapid string of strikes, all within less than half an hour, set off thunderous booms that rattled windows, sent heavy, acrid-smelling plumes of smoke over the city, including from an area close to Muammar Gaddafi’s sprawling Bab al-Aziziya compound.

Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said at least three people were killed and dozens wounded in NATO strikes that targeted what he described as buildings used by volunteer units of the Libyan army.

NATO said in a statement that a number of the strikes hit a vehicle storage facility adjacent to Bab al-Aziziya that has been used in supplying regime forces “conducting attacks on civilians.”

Bab al-Aziziya, which includes a number of military facilities, has been pounded repeatedly by NATO strikes.

Observers described the bombing as the heaviest attack on the Libyan capital since NATO began its air campaign on 19 March after the passage of a UN Security Council resolution to protect civilians after Gaddafi responded to the public uprising against his rule by unleashing his military and his militias.

In one room of the Tripoli Central Hospital, the bodies of three mangled men in their twenties lay on stretchers, their clothing ripped and their faces partially blown away and dusty.

One witness, Fathallah Salem said it felt like the “day of judgement” and told AP:

To be honest we had our problems with the regime but today we have all become Muammar Gaddafi, we have taken him into our hearts.

NATO, which said in its statement that it took care to “minimise the risk of collateral damage to the fullest extent possible,” has been escalating and widening the scope of its strikes over the past weeks, hiking the pressure on Gaddafi, while the alliance’s members have built closer ties with the rebel movement that has control of the eastern half of Libya.

On Monday, the highest-ranking US diplomat in the Middle East, Jeffrey Feltman, was in the de facto rebel capital of Benghazi in a show of support.

Despite NATO bombing runs, the rebels have not been able to break Gaddafi’s grip on the west of the country, including the capital Tripoli.

In a significant new deployment of firepower, France and Britain are bringing attack helicopters to use in the strikes in Libya as soon as possible, French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet said Monday.

The use of attack helicopters would appear to mark a new strategy for NATO, which has relied on strikes by fighter planes and seen that result in a stalemate on the ground as Gaddafi forces adapted, often turning to urban fighting to make such strikes more difficult.

Nimble, low-flying helicopters have much more leeway to pick targets with precision than high-flying jets. But they also are much more vulnerable to ground fire.

The alliance has had no military deaths since it first started enforcing a no-fly zone on 31 March.

Longuet said the helicopters would be used to target military equipment such as Libyan tanker and ammunition trucks in crowded urban areas while causing fewer civilian casualties.

- AP

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